November 25, 2005

Going Glass

I've decided to take the plunge and get checked out in California Airways' G1000-equipped 172. Why? Mostly because it's there, of course, but also because I'm curious, and because it seems like a good way to fly IFR -- if I'm serious about those trips to Klamath Falls (KLMT) or Portland (KPDX) or Santa Monica (KSMO, again) or Arcata (KACV, again...) (all of which would be done IFR, most likely with actual IMC at both ends of the trip on most suitable days), the G1000 will certainly make the trips more enjoyable and safer -- as long as I'm on top of the systems. And it's only a few bucks more per hour than the 172s with GPS and autopilots I'm already flying (yes, it's a long slippery slope, but I'll burn that bridge when I get to it, or some such mixed metaphor...).

I'm in no real hurry, and will probably end up doing it with John (who's now associated with Cal Airways as well as the AAC) over the next month or two, but I think it's a good idea to start doing my homework now. Garmin has a G1000 simulator, which I'll probably get (it's dirt cheap, but may not run on my Windows box), and as always, Garmin has the full set of manuals, supporting documentation, etc., for free download on its website.

So I download the manuals. Argh! There's now nearly 30 MB of G1000 PDFs on my Mac -- literally hundreds of pages of stuff to absorb. Yes, most of it's relatively obvious if you're at all familiar with the conceptual architecture of the system and with glass cockpits in general (no problems here), but as I've said elsewhere, there's a big disconnect between mind and menu with these new systems (very little perceived affordance), and in order to feel confident-- and safe -- in using something like this in hard IFR over (say) LA while getting amended clearances from SoCal Approach on the way into Burbank or something, that disconnect's got to be bridged in ways that are burned into my brain (to bring the mixed metaphors full circle). There's something deeply discouraging or intimidating about a life-and-death system whose official quick reference card or cheat sheet is eight full pages long...

So I predict a ton(ne) of dense technical reading in my near future.

3 comments:

Jason said...

I'm jealous, I look forward to reading about how it goes!

Sam said...

Welcome to my world! ;)

Really, I get the feeling that many GA pilots don't know the technology installed in their airplanes nearly well enough. With the G1000, you don't have any choice but to study that sucker inside & out!

Hamish said...

Jason -- thanks! I'm sure I'll be writing about it in my usual way-too-wordy style over the next month or two. Stay tuned... :-)

Sam: yeah, I'd go further and say many GA pilots don't want to know the technology in their airplanes.... To me that's a shame (and a potentially-dangerous attitude), but then I'm an engineering nerd (and I work in Silicon Valley...), and I find what's behind the panel (or display) just fascinating, especially something as complex as the G1000 and its associated gubbins. Plus I have to believe that if you have a good understanding of the way the system works -- and why it works the way it does-- you have a better chance of surviving failures in that system...